Earlier this year, a Washington D.C. Circuit Court was able to overrule the decision by the FAA to force registration on hobbyist drone flyers. Under the FAA Modernization Act of 2012, Section 336, made it illegal for the FAA to require registration of non-commercial drones, and makes them unable to create certain rules regarding the flights of model aircraft. However, on Tuesday, President Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, and with it, the ability for the FAA to again force registration rules on hobbyist flyers across the nation.
The $700 billion Act encompassed a wealth of items on the agenda for bolstering the nation’s military, and ensuring continued peace, strength, and stability for the US, and her allies. But some are criticizing the actions of lawmakers for including the registration portion in such a bill. When asked by a member of Techcruch.com, an FAA spokesperson confirmed their support for the bill. “We welcome the reinstatement of registration rules for all small unmanned aircraft,” the FAA said. “Ownership identification helps promote safe and responsible drone operation and is a key component to full integration.”
Aviation attorneys such as Jonathan Rupprecht, argue the registration requirement does nothing for security, however. “There was no point of sale requirement for registration.Security has the word “secure” in it. How was this system secure? Part 48 “Security” = A system where citizens voluntarily type in whatever information honestly, without 3rd party verification, and then tape on the registration to their drone.” With the registration system, operators and flyers are allowed to enter freely into the fillable form their information which is still not verified, leaving many scratching their heads as to how this process provides any additional safety.
The FAA rebuttal has always been the process is more so about safety and security through education. The online registration portal does offer some education for hobbyist flyers. However, there is currently no requirement, or way, for the FAA to verify whether the education was received, or simply passed by on the way to the fillable form.
With this new act becoming law, the expected 2.3 million flyers nationwide would now be expected to register their model aircraft with the FAA. While some are not fussing over the $5 registration fee, many flyers feel as though this action will do nothing to protect the nation’s airspace, or aircraft. Others see this as the FAA simply doing the job it was created to do - enforce, and regulate our nation's skies. Even private, and sport, pilots have to register their aircraft. It's not unreasonable to see the desire to have the same requirements for model aircraft flyers.
Drones weighing between .55 and 55 pounds will fall under this newly introduced regulation for hobbyist flyers, and while some are concerned this may be a stepping stone for the FAA to quickly expand their proposals for hobbyist flyers, many are unsure of what they can do in order to fight the increase in regulation. At any rate there is sure to be more legal battles in the courts coming soon which will aim to challenge this law - again. Some may recall the case earlier this year, Taylor v. FAA, and it's subsequent decision by a DC Circuit Court which sided with John Taylor (and the wealth of hobbyists flyers) in their decision to overrule the FAA, and ultimately remove the ability to require registration of Part 101 flyers' drones.
Those who were refunded their $5 registration fees during this year, may want to pull the cash back out. Its likely to be some time before another court ruling can be made on this case, and until then the law stands.